Small towns to stop by New Zealand route

The summer route is as much about the places along the route as it is the journey.

New Zealand is a region full of interesting little cities that are well worth the car hopping for – there’s our pick of stops.

Read more:
* 7 Small Towns in New Zealand with International Flavors
* Buried ghosts, shelters and villages: five of New Zealand’s scariest cities
* Five of New Zealand’s lowest-rated beach cities

Mangonoi

The fish and chips from the Mangonui Fish Shop are hard to beat.

Things

The fish and chips from the Mangonui Fish Shop are hard to beat.

If you’re traveling the far north, put Mangonui at the top of your list. This charming fishing village is known for its collection of historic buildings, which you can see on the Mangonui Heritage Trail. The fish and chips at the popular Mangonui Fish shop are also a must-have – it’s just 100 meters from the dockside, and you won’t get any freshness.

Boho

Puhoi Pub is believed to be one of the oldest in New Zealand.

Jenna Murtagh / things

Puhoi Pub is believed to be one of the oldest in New Zealand.

40 km north of Auckland, you will find the historic village of Puhoi. Immigrants settled from Bohemia in 1863, and the city has preserved much of its original character with its splendid old church, town hall, and small library. Stop by for a refreshment at the 140-year-old Puhoi Pub, and don’t leave without a visit to the famous Puhoi Valley Café and Cheese Shop.

Featherstone

Featherston is the only Booktown accredited in New Zealand, and one of only 22 in the world.

Monique Ford / Staff

Featherston is the only Booktown accredited in New Zealand, and one of only 22 in the world.

Looking for a summer reading? You won’t have a hard time finding one in Featherston, Wairarapa’s very own “Booktown”. The city boasts what has to be the nation’s best collection of used and antique book stores, which you can spend hours looking at.

Hokitika

Make sure to stop by for a photo with the floating Hokitika sign.

Alden Williams / Staff

Make sure to stop by for a photo with the floating Hokitika sign.

After driving the Great Coast Road between Westport and Greymouth, continue heading south and you’ll end up at Hokitika – one of the West Coast’s finest gems. Thought to be greater per capita galleries than anywhere in the country, plus some quirky little restaurants, it’s the perfect place to stop by on a rainy day.

Geraldine

Geraldine is a foodie treat, with local producers of elderberry drinks, cheese, yogurt and beer.

Max Patterson

Geraldine is a foodie treat, with local producers of elderberry drinks, cheese, yogurt and beer.

This lovely little town in South Canterbury is craving as bikelets with jam and cream – which is fitting, considering it’s the birthplace of the famous Parker jam. Geraldine is a foodie dream, so make sure you arrive hungry. Sample some of the group at Talbot Forest Cheese, treat yourself to handcrafted chocolates at The Cottage Pantry and Gallery, or stop for lunch at one of the city’s cozy cafes.

Amrama

After a long day driving, unwind with a soak at the scenic Hot Tubs Omarama.

Brooke Sabin / Staff

After a long day driving, unwind with a soak at the scenic Hot Tubs Omarama.

Amarama is the gateway to Aoraki on Mount Cook to the north, and Queenstown to the south. But it is worth stopping for a while in this cross town, nestled between picturesque mountains and lakes. Relax after a long hike with a soak at Hot Tubs Omarama (cool bathtubs also available), and if you can, stay up to the dark so you can watch the stars under one of the country’s clearest spots of sky.

Moraki

Fleur's Place in Moeraki is one of the country's best seafood restaurants.

MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE / stuff

Fleur’s Place in Moeraki is one of the country’s best seafood restaurants.

Moeraki may be synonymous with rocks, but Waitaki – only five minutes down the road from a geological wonderland – is worth a stop in its own right. No visit to this sleepy fishing village is complete without trying one of the country’s finest seafood restaurants, Fleur’s Place. There are also some great hiking trails where you can see fur seals and yellow-eyed penguins.

Ranforli

The Centennial Milk Bar is an iconic Art Deco building in Ranforli.

Victor Ball / Flickr, Creative Commons

The Centennial Milk Bar is an iconic Art Deco building in Ranforli.

Although it is not as famous as some of its central Otago neighbors, the Ranforli is a nugget of real gold. Most visitors fall into Manyototo, on two wheels, on the Otago Central Railway route. But if you’re traveling by car, it’s worth stopping by to admire the lovely buildings in town – Ranfurly boasts the best collection of Art Deco structures south of Napier.

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